By Peter Rice

Pilot Staff Writer

SALEM - Gov. Ted Kulongoski is urging the conversion of Oregon's entire coastline into a national marine sanctuary to head off oil exploration and aquaculture.

In a letter to Oregon's congressional delegation, Kulongoski said the move would allow state and federal agencies to work with fishermen, tribes, recreational users and others to protect the ecosystem.

Fish harvests, Kulongoski said, would not be impacted by creating a sanctuary.

The federal government sets up special management teams for the sanctuaries to handle the extra regulation, but it's not yet clear just what that bureaucracy would look like. Those details would be worked out at future public meetings, according to Kulongoski spokesperson Anna Richter Taylor.

Oregon's jurisdiction extends three nautical miles from the beach. The governor's sanctuary proposal would extend protection an average of about 25 miles to cover the continental shelf. It would be the nation's first such sanctuary covering an entire state coast.

He said the proposal is a andquot;starting point.andquot;

He said it would draw federal money for marine research and monitoring, which the state cannot pay for.

The 33-year-old National Marine Sanctuary System comprises 14 marine-protected areas that cover more than 150,000 square miles, but none of it is in Oregon.

The first sanctuary was created to protect the ship the Monitor, a Civil War vessel sunk off the coast of North Carolina.

California has four sanctuaries: the Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay and Channel Islands. The 11-year-old Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary covers 3,310 square miles off Washington's Olympic Peninsula and includes 135 miles of coastline.

andquot;It's hard to speculate now what a sanctuary would look like on our coast until the Ocean (Policy Advisory) Council discusses this,andquot; said Mike Carrier, the governor's natural resources policy director. andquot;They might want to limit it to only a portion of the coast.andquot;

Fishermen have supported sanctuaries in the past, so long as they stayed away from fisheries regulation, said Ralph Brown, a commercial fisherman, Curry County commissioner and former member of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the federal panel that sets coastal fishing standards.

But these days, he said, marine sanctuaries are increasingly seen as a big first step toward marine reserves, areas that would be off limits to fishing. Parts of the California sanctuaries have drifted that way, he said.

andquot;There's an awful lot of suspicion and contention over that,andquot; Brown said.

andquot;It's not the known, it's the unknown that people are scared of,andquot; added Brad Pettinger, of the Oregon Trawl Commission.

And Richter Taylor, of the governor's office, did little to quell that suspicion.

andquot;The marine reserve and marine sanctuary process are on a parallel track and should compliment each other,andquot; she said.

Richter Taylor did add that her boss doesn't intend for either sanctuaries or reserves to hurt the fishing business.

She also said that sanctuaries would actually benefit the fishing industry because they would prevent the development of offshore fish farming. Many in the fishing community fear that fish escapes from aquaculture pens could take over and hurt native species like a sort of marine equivalent of Himalayan blackberries.

A sanctuary may face resistance from a Republican Congress and administration interested in promoting oil and gas drilling, said Onno Husing, director of the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association, a coalition of coastal governments.

Kulongoski said the sanctuary would give Oregonians more say over offshore waters that are now beyond their reach. State jurisdiction extends only to three miles, but federal control reaches 200 miles out.

Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist at Oregon State University and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, praised the governor's proposal.

andquot;This will prompt a much-needed discussion about the best pathway to take in protecting its coastline,andquot; said Lubchenco, who has long advocated marine protected areas. andquot;Everyone needs to weigh in on this.andquot;

The state would have to make the request to the U.S. secretary of commerce, who would make a determination before sending it to Congress.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Peter Rice at price@currypilot.com.

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